By Ute Wolf, USAG Hessen Public AffairsApril 24, 2008
HANAU, Germany - Emotions flowed during a ceremony marking the end of six decades of an American presence in this community.
Indeed, tears glistened in the eyes of many older German guests at Hanau's official farewell to the U.S Army April 18. During a reception at the Olof-Palme-Haus, where the first Army headquarters was located in 1945, city officials honored a partnership with the U.S. military that endured for 63 years and is now soon to end.
Hanau's Lord Mayor Claus Kaminsky emphasized the social, cultural and economic importance of the many Americans who called Hanau home temporarily.
"We are thankful and appreciative of the presence of U.S. forces - Soldiers, Family members and civilians - for the 63 years you were here in Hanau. In 1945 you reached out and built bridges, which led us from the past to the future," said Kaminsky. "Your support caused industry, trade and commerce in Hanau to bloom. We lived a great life together with you. Hanau, the city of the Grimm Brothers, wouldn't be the same without you."
City and county officials, representatives of police and fire departments, members of German-American friendship clubs and other guests came to say farewell to their American neighbors and friends, who were represented by Col. Ray Graham, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander; Dr. Robert Kandler, deputy to the commander; Hanau Command Sgt. Maj. Jose A. Fontanez; and a delegation from the Hanau community.
Attendees listened intently as Hanau's mayor recalled the beginning of a long-lasting partnership.
Kaminsky said: "The restoration of public life and city administration as well as the reconstruction of the infrastructure of a totally destroyed city was taken care of by the U.S. military. American Soldiers supported the heavy cleanup from debris and reconstruction. They brought chewing gum, chocolate and cocoa for the children and donated money for playgrounds. In September 1946, the first 250 care packages arrived in Hanau and were distributed by the U.S. Army."
He further described a rapport developed between Germans and Americans that resulted in numerous clubs, sports teams, events and celebrations.
"The citizens of Hanau and the Americans got pretty close during the last six decades, which is demonstrated by the more than 2,500 marriages between German and American citizens registered in Hanau since 1946," he said.
Graham echoed the mayor's sentiments in his speech.
"Germans and Americans (celebrated) good times together, but you were also there in times of sorrow in order to comfort and support - as do friends," the colonel said. "After the terrible terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, more than 3,000 residents took to the streets of Hanau to demonstrate their compassion, their support, their solidarity with the United States of America. The German Police patrolled our premises and the Bundeswehr stood guard at our gates - protecting our Soldiers and Families, on post and off."
"These gestures greatly touched Americans," Graham continued. "They showed that Hanau had become much more than a place to work. It had become a home away from home, a place where we felt welcome and cared for, a place that we shaped and that shaped us. It has become - and will remain - a place that we will dearly miss."
Following speeches in the garden of the old villa, which is still known by senior citizens as the "little white house," guests listened to a presentation on an upcoming exhibit about the American presence in Hessen. The exhibit is scheduled to open Nov. 21 in Hanau's Philippsruhe Castle and is scheduled to move to Wiesbaden in 2009. It will feature a wealth of historic material, artifacts and information documenting the Army history in Hessen.